10 Famous Quotes on Teamwork with commentary

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.’ – Vince Lombardi, Famous NFL head coach

Teamwork is what life and success are all about – at every level of society. It’s teamwork from the top and all the way down. And when teamwork fails, so does the team, the company, the society and the civilization. When people lose their commitment to the group’s effort, it’s the beginning of the end. And for those who never coalesce into a team, many never experience the transformational understanding that only commitment can bring. These teamless ones stand on the side bickering and complaining, but never generating any positive benefits for themselves and others.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” – Andrew Carnegie, 19th-century steel industrialist

The pure essence of teamwork is unity of execution toward a common goal. Carnegie, an industrialist in the steel industry, was one of the richest people in history. Adjusting for inflation, he was worth over 300 billion dollars. He excelled in business by getting people to work together on a massive scale. Later in life, he devoted himself to great works of philanthropy. He proved time and again how to unite common, often uneducated working men in order to change the very fortunes of the nation.

“Teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.” – Patrick Lencioni, business management author

Working together is easy when the work is pleasant and the obstacles are few. But teamwork is more than merely working together. Teamwork is about the sacrifice of self toward the group’s success. That’s hard because we fear sacrifice. What if we fail, or get hurt, or receive less than others? Too often we protect ourselves because we do not trust the group to protect us. That is why, for teams to be effective, they must build trust. First, they must trust the goal/reward is worthy of their sacrifice of blood, sweat, and tears. Second, they must trust that the leadership is both competent (so that the goal is achievable) and caring (so that their sacrifice is appreciated). Third, they must trust that the rest of the team is sharing in the sacrifice, that all are vulnerable to loss. Finally, each member must trust that they themselves are a vital part of the endeavor’s success and that their own vulnerability is essential.

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford, early 20th-century automobile industrialist

Our coming together, learning to trust and become vulnerable is just the early stage. Staying together while times are difficult is much harder. When opposition and frustration grow, we are tempted to stop our sacrifice for the group and move on. It takes great leadership to make adjustments while refocusing the vision. Sometimes, the leadership is not up to the task and must be removed which can lead to firing sports managers or bloody national revolutions. Regardless, if the leadership cannot get the team to work together, it must be replaced. Likewise, if a few members cannot work together for the group goal, they too must be replaced.

“No individual can win a game by himself.” – Pele, Brazilian soccer star

Sometimes success creates failure.

One of the surprising tests of teamwork is success. Those members of the group in the public eye, tend to get the credit for the entire team’s success. Their egos inflate as everyone tells them how great they are. Often, at this point, they decide that they should no longer be vulnerable, so they minimize their personal sacrifice while maximizing their personal reward. In leadership, this is fatal because soon the rest of the team begins to doubt the wisdom of their sacrifice. In a nation, it leads to cultural decay. Also, when the star acts in this selfish way, it breeds animosity in the rest of the team. Even if the star continues to perform excellently, the team itself loses its competitive edge against more selfless teams. This result is the end of many sports dynasties, start-ups, and musical groups.

No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.” – Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn

Alone and surrounded

Related to the earlier quote that you can’t win by yourself, this quote focuses on the fact that you will lose by yourself. So many people try to go through life, alone. Some go as far as living alone in the wilderness. But such a life guarantees unnecessary hardship and loss. There is a reason that most suicides happen when people are alone. And you can be especially alone in a crowded public space. Often it is up to those already in teams and groups to reach out to those who are lost and alone. In the strength of the team, the lost soul can find rest and purpose. So don’t overlook the opportunity to add diverse people to your group.

“Talent wins games but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” – Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls NBA star.

Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson 1997

When Micheal Jordan entered the league, people expected him to display his immense talent. But there were other talented players in the games as well on other teams. In his first seasons, Jordan was seen more as human highlight reel than a champion. Over the years, Jordan learned, through the excellent coaching of Bull’s head coach, Phil Jackson, how to guide his teams to victory. As he got older, he learned to manage his remaining energy to that he could have the most impact in the decisive moments. Intelligence, which can be considered the speed of acquiring experience, abstracting rules and principles and then applying this knowledge in diverse circumstances is the key to sustained success, as evidenced by the 6 basketball championships of Jordan and Jackson.

“A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” ― Rosalynn Carter, wife of former President Jimmy Carter

An average leader can take a team where they want to go if the work is not too taxing. But it takes a superior leader to envision where the team needs to go and enkindle in them the desire to pay the price to get there. And the best leaders of all inspire their teams to get in the habit of doing the unpleasant, but necessary tasks of the daily grind. Of special note, is that everyone on the team can become an inspirational leader at times. We can’t all be the star, but by our selfless devotion, we can move others to give more to the group than they had previously imagined.

“Never confuse movement with action.” ― Ernest Hemingway, famous author and adventurer

Ernest Hemingway and sons

In this case, movement is busyness that does not advance the team goals. It has the appearance of action and urgency, but it is merely sound and fury resulting in trivial gain. A true team discovers which actions lead to significant results and excels in them, even though the price is high. Eventually, when some members excel in mere movement, the rest of team will discover it. In a good team, the team members will discipline those who lack credible action, otherwise, the team culture will begin to fall apart.

“Teamwork is so important that it is virtually impossible for you to reach the heights of your capabilities or make the money that you want without becoming very good at it.” – Brian Tracy, motivational public speaker and author

Teamwork is a skill and one that is not natural to most of us. By nature, we are out for ourselves, our desires, our goals, our destinies. But, slowly, we awaken to the fact that we need each other, not only to survive but to excel. Therefore, it remains for us to learn the skills of teamwork, to seek continual improvement in becoming excellent team members. It is not enough to be merely skilled in our individual tasks, we must develop our ability to help each other become better and better.

Winning is a habit. – Vince Lombardi

This is a bonus quote from the great team leader himself. Just watch the video and be inspired.

Please leave your comments below.

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2 Responses

  1. Cliff says:

    Great topic to cover. Teamwork is what turns good ideas into great ideas. I also like how you put the quotes down and then you went into further detail into each quote. Also Vince lombardi and Napoleon Hill are two of my personal favorites! Love Napoleon’s Hill explanation in the book Think and Grow rich and also how he used a mastermind group to help with his success.

    • Peter Barban says:

      Yes, it has been a long road for me to discover the importance of teamwork. But I make sure that I teach my students and family that they need a team to do anything significant.

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